Person of Interest: s03 e23 – Deus Ex Machina


Court in session

It isn’t ever going to be the same again, but how many times have I said that already this season? Joss Carter’s death wasn’t all that long ago, and its aftermath extended, but do we even remember her now, as things have shifted, both violently and inexorably, over the last third of the season. Where would she fit into our rapidly dying little world? What role might she play?

Deus Ex Machina. The God in the Machine. What, might we suppose, will the Machine do as Vigilance and Peter Collier play Trial-and-Execution with her creator?

Be very careful. This is a story of defeat, of almost total defeat, and the destruction of everything Person of Interest has been to date. It is the story of quite complex plotting, stretching back over years, to create the very circumstances that start this episode, when Peter Collier – a fanatic whose fanaticism is brought out brilliantly by Leslie Odom Jr, whose whole body glows with the self-righteousness of those who know – puts the enemies of the world on trial. Presidential aide Manuel Rivera, Senator Ross Garrison, Control, John Greer… and Harld Finch.

Their trial, the debates, the anger in Collier’s inability to see any other point of view and his insistence that his brother’s case is the entirety of the system instead of a potential outlier, these are the stuff of the episode. And the ‘defendants’ responses: Rivera’s furious and shouting challenge to Vigilance’s ‘power’ to do this that gets him summarily executed, proving Mao Zedong’s maxim that power grows from the barrel of a gun, Garrison’s political weaseling and throwing Control under a bus, her calm non-answers in the knowledge she will be killed.

All of this is more asorbing that the outer elements of the plot, the almost mundane strands. Reese and Hersh form an unlikely but oddly effective partnership, going to Finch’s rescue, whilst Shaw takes off to cover Root’s back as she plugs her seven servers into Samaritan.

And Harold, unable to see anyone being killed if there is a way he can save them. Finch gives away the most important secret of them all, that he designed and built the Machine, as a quid pro quo for Vigilance letting the other three live. Of course he’s wasted his breath, of course Collier will still kill everyone. he doesn’t even listen to Finch explain everything. He has erected the straw figure in his mind and no amount of testimony, or honesty or evidence to the contrary will serve to deflect him from that one true image in his mind, that vital truth that only he sees, knows and understands.

hersh and Reese are on the way, but it’s planned out. It has been from before Peter Collier’s brother was picked up for something we cannot be certain he didn’t do. Many things can be made to look what they are not, especially for those who are looking for what they want to see.

Decima find Vigilance’s ‘court’ first because they’s always known where it is. Hersh finds a mega bomb in the basement and tries, bravely, instinctively and unavailingly, to defuse it. The bomb, and the loss of collateral life, is Vigilance’s swansong. It, and everything, has been Greer’s plan: establishing Vigilance as a useful devil, grooming Collier, setting them up as fall guys, all to tip the balance. The bomb goes off, Garrison authorises Samaritan, which will go live within the hour. Collier is shot and killed, Finch would be but for the intervention of Reese.

But the defeat is overwhelming. Everythng is gone. Root’s servers weren’t meant to shut Samaritan down, they couldn’t. Instead, they create seven blind spots – herself, Shaw, Reese, Finch and the three computer nerds. When Samaritan comes looking for them, and that’s the first thing Greer will have it do, it will have seven blind spots.

So Team Machine will live but that’s all they can do.Seven new identities, prepared by Root, seven separated lives. The Library lost, smashed by Decima. Everything lost. Going different ways. No more numbers, no more missions, just  living under the most wide-ranging radar there has ever been.

What will they do? What can they do?

It’s time for season 4.

23 thoughts on “Person of Interest: s03 e23 – Deus Ex Machina

  1. “Deus Ex Machina” [3×23]
    Written By: Greg Plageman and David Slack
    Directed By: Chris Fisher
    Originally Aired 13 May 2014

    Deus Ex Machina brings the season’s story-lines to a head, and it does not disappoint. POI finales never do, but this might be the best of them all. A large chunk of it takes place in one location–the Vigilance kangaroo court. In their own twisted way, everyone in there thinks they’re doing the right thing. Vigilance sees itself as fighting tyranny, using the words of Thomas Paine. Control and her employees think they’re saving the country from terrorists. Finch is the least convinced of his own righteousness–he’s not sure whether building the Machine was the right thing to do, whether or not the invasion of privacy is justified by the lives saved. After all, much like Oppenheimer, he was worried about what someone else might build. Someone who wasn’t worried. PoI was never intended to be about the ethics of mass surveillance. Nolan envisioned it as a means to get to the story he really wanted to tell about AI. PRISM forced the writing team’s hand though–especially after how closely that story mirrored the episode, No Good Deed. In the end, they did a nice job weaving it into the season’s story without turning the show into a soapbox. None of what happens in that courtroom matters though, because it’s all part of Greer’s master plan–which I didn’t see coming. Presumably he caught wind of these AIs years ago, and has been planning this ever since. By the time Reese gets there, it’s too late, as Collier takes a bullet, Greer orchestrates a terrorist attack, and all Reese can do is save Harold, get the IDs from the library, and flee into the crowd. Also, Bear gets an attack jacket, and Hersh goes out like a badass for such a loathsome character. Hersh joining forces with Reese and Shaw these past two episodes was pretty damn awesome.

    Elsewhere, Root and Shaw break into the belly of the beast….or so we think. Another twist reveals that all she can do for the team is allow them to………….survive. Not thrive, survive. And that’s where we leave the season–with our heroes scuttling off into normal lives.

    Grade: A

    1. It took Jonathan Nolan three years to get here. It takes one and a half to reach the end. This is the two-thirds point, and the nadir for Team Machine.

      1. He intended to start here. When he was forced to write a procedural, he had a 6 year plan. This was meant to be a halfway point. This is definitely their lowest low.

  2. Season 3:
    “Liberty” (Greg Plageman and Denise Thé)-B+
    “Nothing to Hide” (Erik Mountain)-A
    “Lady Killer” (Amanda Segel)-B+
    “Reasonable Doubt” (Melissa Scrivner Love)-B-
    “Razgovor” (David Slack)-A
    “Mors Praematura” (Dan Dietz)-A
    “The Perfect Mark” (Sean Hennen)-A-
    “Endgame” (Nic Van Zeebroeck and Michael Sopczynski)-A
    “The Crossing” (Denise Thé)-A
    “The Devil’s Share” (Amanda Segel and Jonathan Nolan)-A
    “Lethe” (Erik Mountain)-A
    “Aletheia” (Lucas O’Connor)-A
    “4C” (Melissa Scrivner Love and Greg Plageman)-A
    “Provenance” (Sean Hennen)-B-
    “Last Call” (Dan Dietz)-B+
    “RAM” (Nic Van Zeebroeck and Michael Sopczynski)-A
    “/” (David Slack)-A
    “Allegiance” (Tony Camerino)-B+
    “Most Likely To…” (Melissa Scrivner Love and Denise Thé)-A
    “Death Benefit” (Erik Mountain and Lucas O’Connor)-A-
    “Beta” (Sean Hennen and Dan Dietz)-A
    “A House Divided” (Amanda Segel)-A
    “Deus Ex Machina” (Greg Plageman and David Slack)-A

    Overall, the third season is the season that pushes POI to completely fulfill its potential. I really don’t have many complaints with it. Look at those grades! A couple of the one-offs were so-so, but so it goes with a long season–this is one of the very best long seasons in the history of the medium.

    Season Grade: A.

    Top 5 Episodes:
    5. “Aletheia”
    4. “Root Path”
    3. “RAM”
    2. “Deus Ex Machina”
    1. “The Devil’s Share”

      1. If I were to drop it to a C, i’d still stick with my season grade-It’s just weak filler.

        Any of the A’s you disagree with?

    1. A pretty amazing season all in all yeah? The highs were incredibly high and the lows few and far between. This is easily the best season of Person of Interest so far.

  3. Creating a fake organization to use in a false flag attack is devious as hell, yet not out of the realm of plausibility for an intelligence officer like Greer.

  4. Root called Finch the man who sold the world at one point. That frankly applies to Control here better. She sells out the entire country to an ambiguous entity. She probably knows that Decima might use the NSA feeds for their own ends. Yet she agrees to it. All in the name of national security. A myopic move by her, but once again I have to say that I can indeed see her making such a move. At least they won’t stage terrorist attacks, right? That’s the only possible threat, right? Right?

    1. For all her intelligence, Control is a fool. She has conditioned imagination out of herself. She has no flexibility. She cannot see what might lie outside the tunnel walls. And we know what happwens to her as a consequence. That’s one unused thread from a ful-length season 5 that I don’t regret losing.

      1. Nolan planned a redemption arc of sorts for her, probably ending with her dying to end Samaritan. I never felt that we needed more from her, personally…..though seeing her interact with Elias might have been something. Her fate’s similar to Simmons, I think. Right in the bed she made for herself.

    1. So there’s a…..silver lining to a shortened season?

      She also staged her own terrorist attack in the ‘God Mode’ flashbacks, killing Nathan….plus a whole bunch of innocent citizens she’s supposed to protect. The first time, I wondered if the writers had gone for sensationalism over sensibility–could they not have found a better way to dispose of Ingram? It’s Control, though. No, she couldn’t have. Not to mention the strange disappearance of a public figure might be just a little shady.

      1. She’s more similar to Greer than she wants to admit. That exchange between them in YHWH has more resonance than I initially realized.

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